THE issue of sexting was once again thrust into the spotlight on Friday when yet another high-profile sportsman was outed for sending explicit messages via mobile phone.
Australian cricketer Tim Paine hastily called a press conference and resigned as Test captain when it became apparent the lewd texts from 2017 and subsequent investigations would be made public.
It was a humiliating exit from the so-called "second highest office in the land" for Paine, who himself had been abruptly elevated to captain after Steve Smith was engulfed in the infamous ball tampering scandal in 2018.
The Tasmanian wicketkeeper had been lauded for leading the men's team, which had lost the trust and affection of a deeply embarrassed nation, back to some respectability.
But even as he spoke of creating a culture where good people were prioritised over good cricketers, Paine - and Cricket Australia - knew there was a skeleton in his closet that might one day come out.
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Sportsmen have a long and ugly history of sexting. English soccer superstar David Beckham was one of the first sportsmen to be embroiled in a sexting scandal way back in 2009.
Tiger Woods, Shane Warne and numerous AFL, NRL and NBA players have since had allegations levelled at them.
The risks to athletes from a sexting scandal are obvious. They imperil their careers, tarnish their reputations and threaten lucrative endorsement deals - not to mention destroy relationships.
What is often less obvious, but no less real, is the impact of sexting on normal everyday people - especially teenagers.
A 2019 study by JMIR Mental Health concluded that most young Australians (16 to 25 years) are sexting or exposed to sexting in some capacity.
Another study, by Relationships Australia in 2017, found that almost half of people aged 13 to 18 had sent an explicit image, while two-thirds had received one.
The sending of explicit pictures, videos and messages can have serious legal, social and health ramifications, which is why sexting must be a key component of all sex education programs.
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